Children’s viewing of violent TV shows, their identification with aggressive same-sex TV characters, and their perceptions that TV violence is realistic are all linked to later aggression as young adults, for both males and females. That is the conclusion of a 15-year longitudinal study of 329 youth published in the March issue of Developmental Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association (APA). These findings hold true for any child from any family, regardless of the child’s initial aggression levels, their intellectual capabilities, their social status as measured by their parents’ education or occupation, their parents’ aggressiveness, or the mother’s and father’s parenting style.
Psychologists L. Rowell Huesmann, Ph.D., Jessica Moise-Titus, Ph.D., Cheryl-Lynn Podolski, M.A., and Leonard D. Eron, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan undertook the study as a follow-up of a 1977 longitudinal study of 557 children, ages 6 - 10, growing up in the Chicago area. In that study, children identified which violent TV shows they watched most, whether they identified with the aggressive characters and whether they thought the violent situations were realistic. Some examples of shows rated as very violent were Starsky and Hutch, The Six Million Dollar Man and Roadrunner cartoons. The current study re-surveyed 329 of the original boys and girls, now in their early 20s. The participants asked about their favorite TV programs as adults and about their aggressive behaviors. The participants’ spouses or friends were also interviewed and were asked to rate the participant’s frequency of engaging in aggressive behavior. The researchers also obtained data on the participants from state archives, which included criminal conviction records and moving traffic violations.
Results show that men who were high TV-violence viewers as children were significantly more likely to have pushed, grabbed or shoved their spouses, to have responded to an insult by shoving a person, to have been convicted of a crime and to have committed a moving traffic violation. Such men, for example, had been convicted of crimes at over three times the rate of other men.
David Partenheimer | EurekAlert!
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